Western Kentucky University

Research Projects

Photograph: Johnson Lab Presentation


REU Project 15—Analysis of hybrid zones using single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)—Dr. Jarrett Johnson, Biology Department


There are many potential evolutionary outcomes when two independent lineages come into secondary contact and exchange genetic material. These outcomes include reinforcement of reproductive isolation, the formation of a stable hybrid zone, and extinction of one or both parental taxa. The “outcome” of genetic admixture is of incredible interest to evolutionary biologists. Hybrid zones and the resulting patterns of genetic admixture that they generate represent great natural experiments in evolutionary biology because the study of hybrid zones provides insight into the process of speciation and the tempo of local adaptation. The presence of hybrids simultaneously challenges our definitions of species and gives us a glimpse at the genes that encode the features we use to try and define them. This project searches for cryptic hybrid zones in a polytypic tiger salamander species (Ambystoma tigrinum) that can inform conservation decisions, and help to understand the process of speciation. Currently we are developing genetic tools that we can use to delineate unique tiger salamander lineages and geographic regions of genomic admixture


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 Last Modified 7/22/13